My clean little secret
Simply put: About a month ago, while vacationing in the Japanese countryside not far from Nagano, I fell extremely ill. Literally. For the first time in my life, I fainted, and managed to hit my head nice and hard on the way down. When I woke up, a new reality began revealing itself; the most shocking of discoveries reared its head a day or so later, when I realized that something was horribly amiss with my tastebuds. That is, the sight, smell and mere thought of eating meat repulsed me. I went from slurping the best ramen noodles in the world, silken with divine kurobuta pork fat, to craving sautéed tofu and vegetables for breakfast, all in what seemed like a sudden, waking nightmare; it was as though a fuse had blown in my lifetime of hard-wired, grease covered circuitry. Without my permission, without taking any new, dietary vows, there I was: In shock and disappointment that I was forced into vegetarianism. The dreaded V word!
What the fuck. What the fuck. What the fuck?! I hope this isn’t some karmic twist of fate! Perhaps this knee jerk, initial over-reaction is what sealed the deal between me and the three-eyed broccoli devil. At least for now.
But I didn’t come to Japan to have my life flash before my eyes in feverish sickness while on a fairytale, 3-month long vacation! And I certainly didn’t come to Japan to limit myself on what I could eat while on said fairytale vacation– in the homeland of my favorite cuisine in the world, no less, where I plan on living and being happy for the next year of my life!
For the past 10 years, I have based my career, and identity as a writer, really, on devouring every edible thing in my path. As a determined “food writer,” I took no greater pride than in being a fearless eater. Brain tacos? Sure, why not– pass the salsa. Chicken sashimi? Hit me! Delicious with ponzu. Burgers the size of my head; bacon multiple times a day; and my beloved karaage (Japanese fried chicken) at least three times a week leading up to this unfortunate turn of events– there was no stopping me. Years worth of hiccups, stomach aches, and in the months before I left San Diego, vomiting on a regular basis couldn’t slow me down. There wasn’t anything, aside from a couple of annoying food allergies, that kept me from eating in the name of advancing my palate, and career.
Worst of all (and I say this in hindsight): For years, I got off on making fun of vegetarians. Especially if my insults made it past my editors. I broadcast to anyone who would read it that vegetarians were sissies, and that vegans were mental. Boy, do I ever regret basking in that shit.
In the days following my newfound love for soy products and things that grow out of the earth’s (crusty!) crust, I proceeded to do what I do best: Beat myself up. Treat myself badly. Introduce toxic waste into my body. The opposite of a healthy, kind intake.
On my kill-free, self-torture friendly warpath, I fired away at Google and retraced as many of my past plant-eater disses that I could track down. I reread my words, and I felt sorry. Still do. It’s just not cool to make fun of people, period. As harmless and humorous as it seemed at the time, I did it at least to raise eyebrows, with the hopes of pissing people off.
Apparently, I didn’t know any better. At least not immersed in the business of popularity, i.e., entertainment-based journalism.
After satiating my appetite for self-hatred, I moved on to another attractive habit– look for others on which to place blame. My parents didn’t teach me to respect food. Growing up, we had plenty of money and ate, or didn’t eat, whatever we wanted. There was no rule about finishing our plates. Thank you, loving family!
Shit, in high school, my friends and I would regularly rip off Burger King for crying out loud; we’d order, pull thru the drive, and then one of us would run inside with a bag short a couple of Whoppers, to scam employees into “completing” our order.
Go ahead and laugh. I can at least speak to my own stupidity; my past greed is indeed laughable. That includes poking fun at vegetarians later on in my professional life, while getting paid, albeit in a roundabout way, to do so.
But really, I had to stop racking my brain about what could have possibly caused me to fall ill with this itchy case of vegetarianism.
Instead, I sought the advice of a nutritional expert. Next, I began educating myself– researching the same way I had found so many leads to the “stoner food” which I gleefully wrote about for years– on the power of healthy eating, and yes, implementing a vegetarian diet. It was a real mind bender to be confronted with the fact that I came to Japan, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, totally malnourished in the wake of eating so much.
And, after the first week of surviving this new lifestyle, I stopped wishing that I’d wake up wanting to plow through a side of Miyazaki beef again.
My new reality is feeling healthier than ever, and using that energy as motivation to continue on. I’ve substituted positivity and willfulness for self-loathing and yearning for the meat filled days of my past. When I think about eating my former favorite things, the flavors are on the tip of my tongue in what feels like a distant, dreamy memory; it’s a very strange sensation to feel so close, and yet so far away from everything I thought I knew and loved, but that was in fact causing me great pain.
Emerging from this longterm, abusive relationship with food– not just meat– has been a real eye-opener so far. At this point, I can’t imagine ever eating it again. Though I have to be honest, clam chowder (without any bacon- blink twice, yes I said that), sounds really fucking good right now. So, I can not and will not say that I’ll never eat the stuff again, because I just don’t know.
However, I do know that if I decide to indulge in animal flesh one day, it will be in far more respectable circumstances– for myself and the critters of this world– than simply wanting to get my grub on.
At first, I was afraid to let my clean little secret out. I feared being called a hypocrite; a vegetarian “sissy”; hippie tree-hugger; or, a judgmental asshole who got the soy patty beat down she was asking for. But something in me has changed; I’ve been empowered through the experience of feeling healthy, strong and in control of things that matter most. So go ahead and make fun of me if you wish. But I wouldn’t recommend it. 🙂